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The low turn-out on August 24: expected?

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Was the low turn-out of August 24 protests expected?

Protesters gather near the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, Cairo Mohamed Omar

Protesters gather near the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, Cairo
Mohamed Omar

Despite coming nearly a month after the first calls for protests, turnout at the August 24 demonstration was much lower than predicted.

The Daily News Egypt estimates that at the peak of the rally on Friday numbers did not exceed 5,000. A sit-in was announced Friday night but Saturday saw numbers dwindle further from the sit-in headquarters at the presidential palace.

Mohamed Al-Beltagy, the head of the Freedom and Justice party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, said the low turnout was an indication that “President Mohamed Morsy succeeded in changing the opinions of 99.9 percent of his opposition.” According to state-owned Al-Ahram, the statement was made on Al-Beltagy’s Facebook page, but the original text of his post was not available on Saturday.

“This is an incorrect reading of the matter,” prominent leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Farid Zahran said, adding that Al-Beltagy “knows quite well that the main opposition powers to the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t take to the streets on Friday.”

Zahran saw three reasons why the protest was not a success. Firstly, the calls for the August 24 protests came from “forces who lack credibility” and thus the Brotherhood’s real opposition, who oppose the remnants of the ousted regime as much as they oppose the Brotherhood, did not answer them.

Moreover, Zahran pointed to the fact that the protests’ demands were characterised as being “vague and mysterious.”

Finally, the scare tactics exercised by the Muslim Brotherhood prior to the protests managed to the drive potential participants away, according to Zahran.

“The attacks carried out against Tagammu party members Friday afternoon might have made any citizens who were planning on joining the protest later on in the evening change their minds,” he said, referring to an incident where rocks were thrown at Tagammu party members in Tala’at Harb Square by unidentified men.

While Al-Beltagy’s statements ring true in the sense that a very small percentage of those who did not vote for Morsy in the presidential elections actually hit the streets on Friday, the same cannot be said about his assumption that their reason was Morsy’s success in changing their opinions.

While citing different reasons for not participating in the protest, various opposition parties all clarified their nonparticipation being “despite opposing the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategies.”

The Revolutionary Socialists movement refused to “allow the old regime’s figures to manipulate us even if it were for the sake of standing against the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to Haytham Mohamadeen, member of the movement’s political office. At the same time he confirmed the movement’s long-standing opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The April 6 movement’s Democratic Front released a statement on their official Facebook page on Wednesday, where they said “we disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood in their political methodology as well as their means of solving problems, yet that doesn’t mean we have the right to burn Brotherhood members, their headquarters or order their exile.”

Another argument, presented by Haytham Al-Shawwaf, coordinator of the Revolutionary Powers’ Coalition, through the group’s Facebook page, is that the “real” Brotherhood opposition won’t rally against president Morsy until the first 100 days of his rule are over. When that day comes, Al-Shawwaf predicted, the opposition will hold Morsy to account for any unmet promises from the list he vowed to fulfil within his first 100 days in office.

According to Morsi Meter, a watchdog campaign set up to track the fulfillment of his promises, the President has only achieved one of the 64 goals he said he would achieve within 100 days of being sworn in as president, with another ten of the remaining 63 goals in progress.

 


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